Russell Durkee, DO
Pine Grove Family Medicine
I wrote an article about Internet and Families in 2008. As is pertinent with the digital world, it’s time to update.
This is a very important and often underlooked aspect of healthcare. We worry about our children’s social, academic, and personal lives without taking into account that all those issues are intertwined with their digital world. And, while parents often lament about digital devices and screen time, it’s time to realize that this is the world in which we currently live. However, it’s not all bad. I often give the parents of my patients this thought: Books are not necessarily a good thing. I can find some bad books, and I can find some bad websites and apps. I can also find some very good digital sources.
It’s about balance.
Parents, I’ll pick on you first. Gulp! Are you modeling good screen behavior? It’s hard for kids to cut screen time when their older siblings and parents can’t look up from their own screen.
Now for some fun facts:
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, eight-year-olds spend eight hours a day on various types of screens and teenagers even more.
- Scientific American says that teens ages 13 to 17 spend, on average, over three thousand texts a month.
- In a recent study there is a direct link between screen time and health. The study analyzed information on 369 children ages 5 to 18 who underwent body scans to determine the amount of fat mass they had.
“Children with a TV in their bedroom were about twice as likely to have high levels of fat mass— defined as levels in the top 25 percent— compared with those without a TV in their room.”
– Quoted from Livescience.com
This is not all bad. Again, the American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged the usefulness of such shows as Sesame Street and similar programming. As above, there are good books and bad books; good programs and bad. Programs are defined as any digital media: shows, apps, interactive web based, or computer programs. I have recommended to my patients’ families and the parents themselves to do their homework. Unfortunately, it is hard for any organization or physician to recommend any specific program as they tend to change. Fortunately there are some standards out there. We all know them. PBS Kids, Leap Frog, ABCmouse, and National Geographic Kids to name a very few.
My advice for this digital dilemma; work with them and learn some new skills yourself. Children and teens should not engage in entertainment media for more than 2 hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. Also, according to experts, children under the age of 2 should have minimal or no screen time, including watching with you. Studies have shown delays in sleep patterns in young children associated with screen time. Having a background screen on, such as a T.V., is not recommended as it interrupts normal play.
The AAP also states, “It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.” Where we live this should never be a problem. Nature, music, arts and culture are abound in western Wisconsin. I recommend zero screen time on school nights, and screen free zones, especially in bedrooms. You will be amazed what that can do for your family, after the screaming dies down.
Lastly, I know how difficult this subject can be in a family. Feel free to talk to one of the OakLeaf Clinic practitioners at any time on this topic. We have some good advice for you and some interesting resources. We are a good “middle man”
when talking to your children and family about this. Just say, “your doctor said it’s important for your health”!
Russell Durkee, DO – Pine Grove Family Medicine
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715-834-0711 | oakleafclinics.com
Dr. Durkee sees patients in Eau Claire.